The Modern Barber Awards 2022 celebrated a host of talented figures in the industry – including Allington Sirak Kebede of Ruffians Covent Garden, winner of Best Apprentice. We had a chat with Sirak as part of our Award Winning Advice series to find out what advice he has to share for others aspiring to be the best barber apprentice.
MB: How long have you been barbering?
Sirak: One year.
MB: Why did you decide to pursue a career as a barber?
Sirak: After leaving my previous career, I knew straight away that I wanted to learn a craft that I could become obsessed with. I wanted something that would give me purpose, fuel my ambition, and grant me social utility; I wanted to be a useful member of the wider community.
MB: Can you tell us about your training experience so far?
Sirak: I started off by going to a barber school. However, my education really took off once I joined Ruffians, and was introduced to the intricate details of what makes a high-end barber. Whilst going to a barber school helped me learn the foundations, as with learning to drive, it isn’t until you throw yourself into the deep end you truly learn.
MB: Are there particular areas which you have spent more time working on than others?
Sirak: I try to tackle all aspects of hair equally and elevate accordingly. But more so than fading, layers, or block graduating, I invested most of my time into acquainting myself with head shape and how to cut complimentary to the face, as a haircut that will last is more imperative than trying to master one specific ‘haircut’.
MB: Are there areas that you still hope to grow in?
Sirak: Even my educator will say he hopes to continue to elevate his skills in all areas. I hope to grow to be a confident practitioner in all aspects of cutting, styling and understanding.
MB: How can an apprentice find the right barber shop for them?
Sirak: There really is only one way – that’s by getting out there and physically going into these stores and seeing what they are all about. After this, trust yourself to make the right decision.
MB: How can an apprentice go the extra mile for their mentors?
Sirak: I have a rule: you will only show me once. After that the onus is on you to go away and practice, research and apply accordingly. The next time you see your mentor, you can display your newfound skills and they will respond in kind by developing you further.
MB: What ways can you ensure you get the most out of training and a mentor?
Sirak: Persist, persist, persist! Dedicate yourself and become unrelenting in your endeavour; if someone wants it more than you, you’re doing it wrong.
MB: How do you deal with feedback or criticism?
Sirak: Take it onboard, and make sure they don’t have to repeat it. If I’m uncertain with what the feedback means, be it a technique or terminology, I’ll ask them to elaborate. Do not shy away from being brutally honest with yourself and implore your mentor to do the same.
MB: What is your attitude to continued learning?
Sirak: My attitude towards learning can be summed up in one word: Ravenous. I try and learn from everything and everyone – just remember you’re also learning how not to do certain things. Stagnation will kill your creativity and innovation.
MB: Why do you think you won the award for Best Barber Apprentice? Do you have any advice for fellow apprentices?
Sirak: My approach has come from a different angle; I put myself out there for all opportunities without shying away, taking onboard feedback no matter how bad and consistently outworking my peer group. I had to fight for my space in Ruffians against other potential trainees, and through my unyielding work-ethic, I was able to secure my spot, and go on to win Best Barber Apprentice. Although I have won this award, my pace will not slow, and I will continue onwards and upwards.